Brands are increasingly being held to account for how they are impacting the world around them and making information on product packaging available to everyone is a vital step in this journey, says Zappar which is helping to achieve this with its Accessible QR (AQR) code.

An Accessible QR code is made up of a standard QR code and a series of dots and dashes around one corner of one side of the code. This simple addition of dots and dashes unlocks the ability for this one machine-readable code to be scanned as normal by a phone’s camera, Google lens or QR scanner, says the company.

But it also houses the ability for apps featuring a software development kit (SDK) called Zapvision to recognize these same codes from greater distances and use the accessibility features on the device for audio assistance, larger fonts, contrast settings, etc.

Typically, a standard QR code is printed at 15mm on product packaging (in order to be scanned easily by both iOS and Android devices). This QR can be scanned from roughly 15cm away with standard scanning.

But with Zapvision this can increase the initial detection distance by x7 to around 1015cm to announce the category of the product. Using an audio cue the user is guided to around 65cm away, still over x4 times the typical scanning distance of normal QRs. At this point, the exact product information is revealed for access to all the relevant information for the product.

That means blind and partially sighted people for the first time can use these QR codes on packaging to access product information. Something most consumers take for granted is an everyday issue for millions of people living with sight loss across the world. This a problem that can be solved through technology to make product packaging more equitable.

One of the biggest challenges facing brands is the lack of spare real estate on-pack, so while intentions may be good, the limited space can make it difficult to justify the inclusion of additional elements on a package. From a commercial point of view reducing the logo size and other important elements of branding makes an accessibility solution less appealing.

Also if a QR is already on the pack reaching the majority of consumers then adding competing digital signatures is an issue. Using AQR everything is in one place, keeping the packaging simple and, most importantly, fully branded.

Besides protecting branding real estate, there is also a cost implication when it comes to altering packaging design and process. Minimizing production expenses is crucial and AQR offers a cost-effective solution, claims Zappar., by utilizing only two colours for printing. The best way to introduce an accessibility solution to brands is by seamlessly integrating it into existing processes. By making it part of an existing benefit like digitizing packaging, brands can roll in the accessibility solution without requiring additional effort or space.

For brands operating across multiple markets, addressing the diverse needs of consumers in each market is vital. Developing and supporting a single app for a specific use case across all markets would be costly and less relevant to each community.

A one-code approach like AQR offers a practical solution by integrating seamlessly into existing apps. This allows brands like Unilever, for example, with operations in over 120 markets, to cater to consumers effectively and ensure easy accessibility.

Caring in an age of conscientious consumerism makes commercial sense. As Sumaira Latif, company accessibility leader for Procter & Gamble says, “You would never say a woman is not allowed to use our products. By not making your products accessible, you are saying the blind community is not welcome.”

This article was created in collaboration with AIPIA (the Active and Intelligent Packaging Industry Association). For a full update on active and intelligent packaging, come along to the AIPIA World Congress (co-organized by Packaging Europe) in Amsterdam on 14-15 November. The only smart packaging event covering the entire technology spectrum, the World Congress is a meeting place for the global active and intelligent packaging industry where brand owners, innovators, and other stakeholders can network and see and discuss the latest trends and innovations. Register to attend here.